New bylaw coming into effect in Burlington at beginning of next year

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Published December 12, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Burlington City Hall lobbyist registry

Those who wish to lobby elected officials in Burlington on behalf of a business or other for-profit entity will have to comply with a new lobbyist registry bylaw slated to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. 

Today, the city announced its new lobbyist registry bylaw will go live early next year.

The new bylaw, approved by council in July, is meant to provide transparency about individuals and businesses who lobby the city. 

According to the bylaw, a lobbyist is defined as an external, in-house or volunteer person or organization who communicates with a public officer holder on behalf of a business or financial interest. When speaking with an official, a lobbyist will typically try to influence legislative action on developments or seek changes to an existing bylaw, motion or other council decision. 

Starting next year, lobbyists must register all lobbying activities–something that was voluntary previously. All lobbyists must soon file a registration for each matter they intend to lobby prior to the lobbying, or within fifteen days of the initial communication.

The city says other changes to lobbying policies include an expanded definition of lobbying communication to include “a formal meeting, email, letter, phone call or meaningful dialogue or exchange that materially advances a matter that is defined as lobbying, whether in a formal or an informal setting,” the addition of the Burlington Leadership Team as a part of the lobbyist registry (along with city council as public office holders), and the appointment of the city clerk as the lobbyist registrar.

As far as penalties go, the city says those who violate the bylaw could be prohibited from lobbying activities until a meeting with the lobbyist registrar is held. 

Should a second offence be committed, the person or group will be banned from lobbying city officials for 60 days. 

As for what groups are not considered lobbyists, the bylaw says the policy does not apply to government or public sector representatives, members of the Senate or House of Commons of Canada, the legislative assembly of a province, the council or legislative assembly of a territory, city officials and employees, or public sector workers representing school boards or health care organizations. 

Residents communicating with city officials to ask questions or voice concerns over email or at meetings are not considered lobbyists and do not have to register. 

The city’s lobbyist registry can be found here.

“The new Lobbyist Registry ByLaw will help ensure greater transparency in the local government decision-making process,” said Deputy Clerk Kevin Klingenberg. 

“Lobbying is a legitimate activity. It benefits lobbyists, public officeholders and members of the public. This new registry ensures the process is transparent, centralized for cost-effectiveness, and easy to access by the public.” 

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